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Tolls now fact of life on SR 520
It’s been years and millions of dollars in the making, but tolls on State Route 520 began Thursday morning.
The first day with the new equipment in place was going smoothly the early-morning, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation. Traffic on the bridge the first hour of tolling was 45 percent less than a normal day, according to WSDOT. However, the real traffic test for commuters is expected to begin Tuesday morning, when people return from their holiday vacation.
WSDOT Tolls Director Craig Stone has said there will be some diversion away from 520 because of the tolls. These drivers are likely to go to Interstate 90, State Route 522 and Interstate 405.
“Drivers from Issaquah to Seattle and Tukwila to Shoreline will see changes to their commute,” Stone said. “Drivers who use these routes should prepare for potential traffic delays and adjust their schedule accordingly. We expect traffic patterns will change daily, and it will take several months before traffic settles into a predictable new pattern.”
The first vehicle across the bridge once tolling started at 5 a.m. was a Honda CR-V — traveling at 76 miles per hour, WSDOT officials said.
Tolls vary by time of day, with the peak rate $3.50 for those with a Good To Go transponder during the hours of 7-9 a.m. and 3-6 p.m. Cameras on the bridge will read the license plates of cars without transponders and send them a bill. WSDOT will charge $1.50 fee in addition to the cost of the toll for these drivers.
About three-quarters of the 4,700 vehicles that crossed the bridge in the first three hours of tolling had "Good to Go" passes, Stone said.
The East high rise has 12 cameras and photographs every license plate. Blue lights on crossbars are near infrared to help illuminate the plates in low light, reduce light pollution and protect fish population from revealing them to predators, according to Patty Rubstello, the director of Toll system and Engineering for WSDOT.
Tolling on SR 520 is expected to raise $1 billion overall toward the $4.65 billion SR 520 bridge replacement and HOV program, which builds 12.8 miles of safety and mobility improvements from Interstate 5 in Seattle to SR 202 in Redmond.
To locate a Good To Go retail outlet, visit, www.wsdot.wa.gov/goodtogo/retail. For more information on the passes, call 1-866-936-8246.